Saturday, December 29, 2012

Whose woods these are

Ed and I bundled up this morning and struck out on a mission to take our Netflix® movie out to the mailbox at the front gate.

On our way back, we veered off to a path that runs along the edges of our fields and borders the creek and woods. We hopped over the creek and made our way up to our upper-most field and to the woods that run along side it.

I thought I knew every part of our farm -- from hiking, bird watching, tree planting, and working to clear the ever-present honeysuckle. Perhaps it was the snowy morning, or the low light; perhaps it was the even quieter than usual air; or maybe it was that the briars and weeds were bent low with heavy snow, or perhaps the myriad of animal tracks were confusing me; but I did not know these woods.  

My perspective seems to have shifted. Everything looked different. Softer. More lovely.

On our way back, we came to an opening in the trees from which I could glimpse our house. Even it looked different, tucked into the trees. More cottage like. More homey. More welcoming. 

This morning our woods really were lovely, dark and deep – especially as they were filled up with snow. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chicken sitting

Ed and I were left in charge of our neighbors' 8 grown hens and 8 pullets this week. So far we haven't lost a one of them and we've reaped a dozen farm fresh eggs. We've grown quite fond of them – both the chickens and the eggs. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing you a (slightly) off-kilter Christmas

We are having a slightly off-kilter Christmas here at Farm Dover. Wishing the same to you. It's a lot more fun than a perfect one. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's beginning to SMELL alot like Christmas...

A wood fire is burning in our fireplace. Jack is on his way here to help us haul in our live Christmas tree from the front porch. And I just grated nutmeg into a custard for tomorrow night's bread pudding. Festive fragrances are filling our home, each evoking its own special memory.

I wanted to tell you about this bread pudding, because our entire family thinks it is quite special. I've served it every year on Christmas Eve since the kids were preschoolers -- bourbon sauce and all! For years, it was delivered to our kitchen door by Leanne, a former nanny, excellent cook, and good friend. A few years ago I added it to my cooking repertoire.

It's easy to assemble. I make it up the day before and then bake it while we eat dinner.



For Bread Pudding
1 loaf (stale) french bread (6-8 cups cubed) or croissants
4 cups milk (or half & half)
2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For Bourbon Sauce
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup bourbon


For Bread Pudding
The day before baking, place cubed bread in a 9x13” baking dish. Mix all other ingredients together and then pour over the bread. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1-1/4 hours. Serve warm with Bourbon Sauce.

For Bourbon Sauce 
Over low heat, cream butter and sugar until butter is absorbed. Remove from heat and add yolk and bourbon. Serve warm over bread pudding.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hello darkness, my old friend

Last night Ed and I gathered with some neighbors to mark the darkest day and welcome light. We wrote down on paper things we wished to leave behind or hopes we had for the new year, and then we tossed them into the roaring bon fire.

We lit japanese lanterns and offered them up to the night sky. We shared a supper of chili and mulled wine.

This simple winter solstice celebration presented us a time to tune into the magic and beauty of the season. It reminded me that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing. It helped me understand the powerful transition of darkness to light, and the hope and opportunity there is in that.

This yuletide I look forward to spending time with my beloveds as the light returns. I hope the same for you.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Attention! Important!

"Attention! Important!" the outside of the folded sheet scotch-taped to the kitchen entrance door proclaimed.

Inside: "Mamma, meteor shower tonight. Wake me up. Your loving daughter, Mary"

Oh that Mary. It's so late and I'm so tired. And a ten-year-old needs her sleep more than she needs to get up in the middle of the night to see (or not see) a few shooting stars.

"Attention! Important!" the note on the second step of the stairway proclaimed.

Inside: "I'm serious. Wake me up. Meteor shower tonight."

She'll thank me in the morning for letting her sleep. Too many trees around the house and too close to the city lights to see any stars falling from the sky.

"Attention! Important!" the note in my bathroom sink read.

Inside: "Mamma, wake me up. I mean it. Big meteor shower tonight."

That Mary. Such a headstrong child. 

"Attention! Important!" the note on my pillow read. This one decorated with stars and a moon.

Inside: Mamma, meteor shower tonight. Wake me up. P.S. I love you."

Just let me slide into bed and fall off to sleep. I'm so exhausted... 

2:00 a.m.: wide awake. I tiptoe down the hall and into Mary's room. I wake her. Holding hands, we make our way down the dark steps, grab a blanket and slip out the door. We lay down on a chaise longue; her little long-limbed body on top of mine; my arms holding her tight. We look up to the dark sky. And there it was. The most magnificent meteor shower ever. Ecstatic memories in the making: ones that neither Mary or I will ever forget. Memories that we can dig up and reclaim through all the years of our lives.


In honor of that memory, I woke up last night at 2:00 and quietly left our bedroom, put on my puffy brown coat, my UGG boots, hat and mittens, and slipped out into the cold night. All around me was sky, dark everywhere but along the horizons which still carried the glow of lights from nearby towns and the mercury light of the dairy farm up the hill from us. From the corners of my eyes, I began to see them. Only a fraction of a second they lasted, streaking short distances before burning out. A dozen or so in only a few minutes. Then one, with a long tail, that burned across the eastern sky. A dazzling shooting star if ever there was one. And with that, I made a wish and headed back in.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seeking color in winter

I went out walking yesterday, looking for some color in the winter landscape. The sky was blue; many of the tree trunks were nearly black; a pair of cardinals with their crimson mohawk crests hopped from branch to branch. I even saw a red-bellied woodpecker work his way up a tree.

But most of what I saw on the ground was beige, various shades of beige – from brown, to tan, to cream  – but nevertheless blah beige. Back by Maggie's bee hives, I came upon this bush flaunting hot pink berries. It cheered me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vegetable Soup + Cabbage + Blue Cheese = Magic

There's a pot of magic soup simmering away in Grandmommy's kettle on my stove. It's magic because it's just homemade vegetable soup (any recipe works) with a bit of cabbage added for the last five minutes and then ladled over a bowl with a spoonful of crumbled blue cheese stirred in. The combination is amazing, make that magical.  The recipe comes from cousin Glenda, who served it to me years ago. I never forgot it. And you won't either if you give it a try.

My magic soup includes the very last cabbage, picked from my garden this afternoon. 
Shredded cabbage goes in for the last five minutes. Then stir in crumbled blue cheese into each soup bowl. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's the hap-happiest season of all

It's the most wonderful time of the year – for it is cheese straw baking time. And it is much more fun to have a partner to bake with. This afternoon Maggie and I made up the first batches of cheese straws that we'll share with family and friends this Christmas season. What a fun – and productive – way to spend the afternoon, especially since Maggie did most of the hard work of piping the cheesy batter onto the baking trays.

Once the golden squiggles cooled, I packed them into tins and mason jars.

And then added twine and tags.

Here's a look at the final gift.

And, the best part, Maggie did the dishes.

Now, when Mary comes home this weekend, I bet I can get her to help me with Batch #2.



What do you think? Will they bloom on Christmas morning? Just 14 more days.

the best breakfast EVER

Told Jack that he had to leave me one piece of his birthday cheesecake for my breakfast...


Cheesecake Royale

This recipe is adapted from one that I learned to make in a class taught by Camille Glen, a long-time Courier-Journal food writer and excellent cook. 

It gets better if left for a couple of days in the refrigerator and then served at room temperature. It is EXCELLENT for breakfast, the day after you serve it for a dinner dessert!

Butter for baking dish
1/2 cup ground vanilla wafers (or ginger snaps)*
2 lbs cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cognac vanilla

Butter generously an 8x3 round baking dish or 2-quart souffle dish. Press crumbs on the sides and bottom of dish, reserving some for the top of the cheesecake.*

Cream cheese with an electric mixer until perfectly smooth. Add cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle crumbs on top.*

Set the pan inside a slightly wider pan and pour water in to the depth of 1/2 inch. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 2 hours. Then turn off the heat and let the cake set in the oven for another hour. Cool 30 minutes.

Run a sharp, thin knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Place a round plate over the cake and turn both upside down to unmold the cake. Refrigerate until 2 hours before serving.

* Sometimes I don't include the crumbs and just decorate the top with fresh berries. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Remembering 25 years ago

I was so ready for it him to be born. I couldn't sleep at night. I'd get up and wander around the house, finally settling in Ed's Lazyboy® chair in the downstairs den. Christmas would soon be here and I wasn't ready. At about 5 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1988, I was making a mental list of all that I needed to do before this baby was born when I realized that he was coming! I woke up Ed and then we waited until dawn before calling my Dad to ask if he would come over to take care of 19-month-old Maggie. And then off we went to the hospital. That's what I remember about the day Jack was born.

And now he is 24 and such a wonderful young man. Happy Birthday Buddy.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's hiding under that straw?

Why strawberries, of course!

While it was nice and warm this week, cold is on its way. I'm sure of it. But our strawberries will be toasty warm underneath a thick bed of straw mulch. I scattered it over the patch this week to protect the plants from cold temperatures that can kill the buds and injure roots and crowns.

Then in the spring, we'll remove the straw and feast on the beautiful berries. The wait is long; but so worth it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A day on the river

Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing.
–Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday was one of those weird warm days that December sometimes teases us with: sunny, high of 73, with a bit of a breeze. Too nice a day to be inside.

So at the crack of dawn (actually a full hour before), Ed and I pulled out of our gravel drive and headed to the Kentucky/Tennessee border for a day of fly fishing on the Cumberland River. After breakfast at a greasy-spoon in Burkesville, we met our guide for the day, loaded our gear onto his jon boat and slid into the sparkling waters of the Cumberland River.

As we made our way up the river, we saw flocks of wild turkeys, murders of crows, a lone bald eagle, kingfishers, a pileated woodpecker, cliff swallows, herons and ospreys. Even if we didn't catch a single fish, the trip was already worth it for me.

We fished the river all morning, stopping at a gravel bar for a turkey-sandwich lunch, then fished until the sun started to go down behind the hills. Ed always reminds me that I can fish, or I can worry; but I can't do both at the same time. Yesterday, not a worrisome thought entered my brain. I was way too busy fishing.

We brought home two nice trout, which Ed cleaned and gutted last night, and I'll fix up for our dinner tonight.

All and all, it was the best kind of day. Hope we can do it again soon.